4 Units to Achieve Back-To-School Goals 






As a teacher, you might have just a few goals for the beginning of the school year: set the tone for your classroom; inspire students to work harder; establish rigor and expectations; teach students to think independently.  Oh, and don’t forget win over students by showing them how much fun they’ll be having this year, and, when you teach high school, getting to know over 100 new people as fast as possible. Seems simple, right? Every year, I have tried

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How I Teach My End-of-the-Year Poetry Project






The last few days before summer vacation can be a slow painful countdown—or they can be an opportunity to try something new, get students working independently, and give teachers a break.  It’s not that teachers are sick of their students (okay, maybe just a little bit) it’s that we’re all ready for something a little bit different.  For me, that sometimes means finishing off the term with an engaging poetry unit.   My End Of The Year Poetry Unit is

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A List of Poems For Every Unit






One resource that I have always wanted as a teacher is a list of poems arranged by theme so I could easily find a great piece to add to any unit.  Well, here’s that list. If you see a link in the title to the poem, that’s because I sell a resource for teaching that poem.  (Think about it as a great choice if it’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday night and you’d rather go to bed than sit up

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How To Teach Poetry






How To Teach Poetry April is National Poetry Month, and while I could happily spend hours analyzing a poem with a group of seventeen-year-olds, I know that not everyone feels that way. Poetry is not always an easy sell.  Students might not have much experience with poetry, or they don’t like it, or they think that it’s going to be too hard.  But by the end of my introductory unit, I have won (almost) all of them over.  They look

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My Ideal Argument Essay Unit






My Ideal Argument Essay Unit. I have to admit that I resisted teaching a research based argument essay in my ELA classes for over twelve years.  Each year, I would “forget” or “not get to it” or “sort of do an assignment that fulfills the requirement.”  The requirement, as I understood it, was for students to click around on the internet for a few hours, put some facts together in a new format, and then say where they had gotten

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14 Questions for Examining Mentor Texts (Of Any Kind)






Once students are comfortable reading and analyzing mentor texts in order to improve their own writing, it’s nice to be able to let them work through a text independently.  Still, they might appreciate some scaffolding or reminders of what to look for.  These fourteen questions will work for just about any kind of writing—from cutting edge journalism to revealing personal essays to experimental poetry.    For a printable version of this handout that you can use tomorrow as well as

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Poem of the Week: American Dreams, Struggle, and Unity






I don’t think that I will ever be able to hear the words “great” and “America” together again without cringing.  And yet, I want to continue the discussion about how we can all achieve the American Dream. I guess that what I most want my students to understand about the place they live is this:  It’s complicated.  It’s not really about whether America was or ever will be great—it’s about looking at what does work and looking even more closely

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Classroom Management: Why I Love a Good Jigsaw






Students moving around the room, talking to each other, sharing information, and teaching their peers—it’s sort of a teacher’s dream, and it’s what happens when I do a jigsaw activity with my students. I use a jigsaw in three of my content-heavy resources: my Fake News and Digital Literacy Unit, my Growth Mindset Unit, and my Elements of Poetry Unit. The basic idea of a jigsaw is that students learn a piece of the content and then teach that to

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Common Core: 3 Tips for Teaching With Challenging Non-Fiction






Whether I’m assigning an article about the relationship between a fixed mindset and the Enron scandal or I’m requiring students to read an essay about how basketball, race, and dreams are all intertwined, I have a few common goals when I choose challenging non-fiction to incorporate in my lesson plans. I want students to learn how to deal with difficult vocabulary, how to navigate complex sentence structure sentence structure, and most importantly, I want them to learn how to question

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Classroom Management: Why We Freewrite






It’s kind of funny that as a teacher I can relearn the same lessons over and over again—I’ll forget how affective a strategy is or how crucial one step is—until I am brutally reminded when a lesson falls flat or an assignment turns out terribly.  One of the lessons that I learn over and over is how important the freewrite is. Last year I was grading the midterm exams from my junior honors American Literature class, and there was one message that

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